Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Relaxation Technique 1: Abdominal Breathing

One of the easiest and very effective things you can do to get into a deep state of relaxation quickly is to take deep breaths.
What is abdominal breathing?
Abdominal breathing is a way to breathe from your stomach area (abdomen) to fill your entire lungs with air. Your lungs are like balloons that should fill up and empty all the way. Your body gets the most benefit when you use your entire lungs. Many people who are under stress breathe in short and shallow breath from the chest. This is not the best way to breathe because it only uses the upper parts of the lung. Breathing from your chest can increase muscle tension.

How to Breathe From Your Abdomen and Not Your Chest:
Place your hand on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply from your nose, slowly pulling in as much air as you can. Keeping your hand on your abdomen, slowly release the air through your mouth. Make sure you release the air from your abdomen area. You should feel your hand depress slightly as this happens.

The Calming Breath Exercise:
One of the easiest things to do when you start feeling anxious is to focus on your breathing. Most people with anxiety tend to breathe in short quick breaths. If your like me, in a horror movie when you get scared you might hold your breath altogether. In movies you see when people start hyperventilating (or taking quick short breaths) they have them breathe out of a brown paper bag. That actually works because it forces you to take deeper breaths because of the lack of oxygen.

So here is a really simple exercise that can help you out tremendously.

  1. At least once a day either when you are anxious or just when you have a time that you can sit and focus, breathing from your abdomen inhale through your nose slowly to a count of 5.
  2. Then HOLD YOUR BREATH for a count of 5.
  3. Release the breath slowly from your nose or mouth, counting to 5 again (or counting backwards from 5 to 1, whichever you prefer). Make sure to exhale fully.
  4. Take two breaths in your normal rythm and then repeat steps 1-3 for 3-5 minutes, or until you reach a 0 on your anxiety scale.

Another tip that you can do while you exhale is to say a phrase or a positive affirmation in your head that is meaningful to you. Something like “this too shall pass” or “I can do this” or “I can take as small a step forward as I choose”; whatever works for you. When you do these actions it forces your body to react in the opposite way you would if you were scared or frightened which in turn can make your anxiety symptoms calm down. It’s also a nice trick you can do no matter where you are, subtly, without having to make a scene. Once you get really good at it, you can do it right in front of someone as they are talking to you and they won’t even notice. I have done this in restaurants, church, in meetings at work, everywhere.

Some other breathing exercises include:

  • Watch your breath. This is called mindfulness. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Focus your attention on your breathing, and do not try to change it. Watch it go in and out. If it changes, keep being aware of it, almost like you are watching someone else. This is a way to relax and balance your body and mind. This method can also work to decrease pain.
  • Focus on breathing out. Keep watching your breath, and do not try to change it. Think only of breathing out. When you push more air out, you will automatically take more air in. Breathe deeply and feel yourself relax.
There are not too many down sides to abdominal breathing exercises. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you do too much at once, you could pull a muscle that isn't used to being worked very hard or, at the very least, make yourself feel a little lightheaded. Take your time standing up from the prone position.

Time Frame:

Abdominal breathing exercises only take a few minutes every day. Spending 10 minutes a day or every other day can make you healthier. Use these relaxing breathing techniques before you go to bed or first thing in the morning. You'll feel relaxed and rejuvenated.


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